I was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Thirty-eight years before I was born, in 1908, the Great Chelsea Fire burned half the city to the ground. It was just after this Great Fire that boat loads of Eastern European, Jewish, Italian, Irish, Greek, and Russian Orthodox immigrants came to Chelsea to buy up the partially burned houses on the cheap. My grandparents, Yiddish speaking Jews from Odessa, Russia, were among them. They bought a house in Chelsea and fixed it up. The charred black rafters in the attic crawl space still told the story. It was in that house that I was brought up.


Besides the cheap and charred houses, the fire gave birth to hundreds of junkyards salvaging as much as they could from the fire. Each one specialized in certain commodities: paper, cardboard, ferrous metal, non-ferrous metal, glass, brick and stone, car parts, chemicals, etc. This land of junkyards was my playground. I rode my bicycle down into the junk district every chance I got to look at fragments and to pick up a prize piece of junk, maybe something that fell out of the back of a truck. I would bike it home to my playroom, the boiler room, in the basement of the house. It was my first workspace. I spent many years wandering before I realized that that time in the boiler room had been the happiest time of my life so far: making, creating, breaking, fixing, and rearranging.


In 1964, I entered the University of Massachusetts. I was expelled in 1966, and within a few days was drafted by the US Army. I served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. During that time, I maintained my sanity as much as possible with words, by writing poetry. After I was discharged from the Army, I traveled extensively in Europe. I found that the words I had depended on were somehow failing me. But in their place was art, architecture, painting, sculpture and stone. Stone was (is) everywhere. I fell in love with it.


After Europe, I went to the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on the GI Bill. I received my MFA and then taught there for a year. Next came a 3-year apprenticeship with a stonemason in Massachusetts, and then I moved to New Mexico to begin my career as a sculptor. I was recreating that boiler room of my youth, so to speak. I opened Southwest Stoneworks in 1976 and have been working with stone for 41 years.


I met my wife, ceramist Betsy Williams, in 1999. She inspires me. Together, in 2005, we opened Rift Gallery adjacent to my stoneyard in Rinconada, New Mexico. In the gallery, we feature a carefully curated selection of contemporary two-and three-dimensional work.

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©Mark Saxe